Sport Import's transformation into a European partner for the cycling industry

Sport Import's transformation into a European partner for the cycling industry

In early 2020, German wholesaler Sport Import announced plans for a move into Europe by setting up its own sales force for Belgium and the Netherlands. Just three and a half years later, Sport Import has become a European company.

In 2022, the distributor Sport Import celebrated its 40th anniversary. The portfolio includes 40 brands, including SRAM, Rockshox, Lezyne, WTB and wethepeople. 80 employees currently work for the family-owned company in eleven countries. Even though the expansion took place according to plan, the Europeanization has taken on a positive momentum of its own, as owner Alexander Müllmann reports. “After we took the step abroad, many brands approached us. The need to cover more countries with our service didn’t surprise us, but it rapidly changed us as a company. Today, we can’t imagine working any other way than European in a multinational team.”

Online retail

Alexander Müllmann is the son of company founder Michael. After completing his business studies, he spent two years in England working for Europe’s largest bicycle retailer. Since 2017, he has been bringing his experience of how online retail works to Sport Import in order to make the company even more modern, digital and European. Sport Import doesn’t just cover sales: the company deliberately offers a wide range of services.

With its own marketing department, web development, the large warehouse and its own service: “Our mission is to be a service-oriented European partner for bicycle dealers. That’s what we always have in mind in everything we do. Our international back office team supports all dealers with their specific needs.” In line with this, the position of Key Account Manager Europe was recently staffed in order to offer key accounts in all countries the best possible support.

Owner Alexander Müllmann (left), founder Michael Müllmann (middle) and managing director Ralf Fischer (right).
Owner Alexander Müllmann (left), founder Michael Müllmann (middle) and managing director Ralf Fischer (right).

Event season

In marketing, the signs are also set on Europe: the year 2023 is the first proper event season for the bike industry since the emergence of COVID. And here Sport Import can go straight into high gear. With Velofollies in Belgium as the kickoff, events in seven different countries are on the schedule. B2B and B2C events are equally important for the wholesaler: “As a distributor, our job is of course to address the retailers. However, participation in B2C events is also an extremely important part of our services for brands. After all, the products should be noticed by the end consumers. That’s why we are there, where we meet the target group and, to a certain extent, light the fire from below. The exchange with customers is an immensely important indicator for us,” explains Steffen Klein, marketing director of Sport Import.

Digital world

The borders are also disappearing in the digital world: In-house web development ensures that the B2B web store is available in seven languages. Ralf Fischer, the third managing director of Sport Import alongside founder Michael and owner Alexander Müllmann, is responsible for the IT department, among other things: “We intentionally build all our tools in-house. This simply gives us a decisive advantage in flexibility. Ideas can be implemented quickly and custom-tailored. But the whole approach is not an end in itself. The customer’s benefit always comes first. Working with us must be easy. That is our claim, regardless of the countries we serve.”

Private brands

Independent of European corporate strategy, Sport Import is pushing ahead with its own projects. For example, the company already offers specialty retailers two private brands. Under the Voxom brand, Sport Import has been selling bicycle accessories with honest quality, function and durability at a fair price since 2016. The slogan is therefore quite simply: “Das Zubehör” (The Accessories). With SIBMX, their own BMX bike brand has been in the portfolio since 2017. Beginners in the sport are offered solid bikes without unnecessary specs – with assured spare parts supply and service.

Sport Import thus remains true to its approach of consistently pursuing ideas and convictions. Alexander Müllmann: “These steps are only possible with a motivated, self-reliant team. We can be happy to shape this path so successfully together.”

This article is sponsored bySport Import.